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Saturday, September 14, 2019

First Anglo-American University Cable Match

     In other news from 1899, on April 21 and 22 the British universities of Cambridge and Oxford fielded a team that defeated the American universities team made up of players from Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton by one point in their first cable match by a score of 3.5 to 2.5. The British team took possession of the Rice Trophy, donated by Isaac Rice of New York. 
     Back in March the US team wanted to include students with more than five years standing to compete, but the British were having none of it. The five year limitation was blow to the US because E.E. Southard of Harvard was in his sixth year. At the time Southard was reported to be head and shoulders above his fellow representatives. In fact he was strong enough that he had been chosen as a reserve on the US team in the recent US vs. Britain cable match. 
     You’ve probably never heard of Elmer Southard (July 28, 1876 – February 8, 1920, 43 years old), but he was considered to be the most brilliant player who ever played for Harvard. A brilliant man, he achieved outstanding success in his profession as a neuropsychiatrist, neuropathologist, professor and author. Chessgames.com has only one of his games in its database; I suspect that scouring magazines of the period might turn up a couple, but they remain scarce. It was Southard who gave the Danvers Opening (1.e5 and 2.Qh5) its name which is named after the insane asylum where he worked. 



     On March 2nd, local chess circles received punch in the gut when 18-year old “boy chess expert” as he was described in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, William E. Napier (1881-1952) who had been studying music in Chicago, sailed for London aboard the RMS Campania. He was going to spend a couple of weeks there where he hoped to witness the Anglo-American cable match (not the intercollegiate match). After that, Napier was going to Paris and then on to Berlin where he intended to pursue his music studies after ascertaining which branch of music he was suited for. 
     The Daily Eagle stated that Napier was without a doubt the strongest player of his age in the world. He came to Brooklyn at the age of 13 and learned nearly all of his chess there where he made rapid progress. There were even some who considered his better than Frank Marshall. That was on the basis of a match they played in 1896. 
    The match was played in the Brooklyn Chess Club. Marshall was nineteen years old and Napier was sixteen years old. The winner of the match was to be the first to win seven games. At the time, Marshall was the New York State Junior Champion. Napier crushed Marshall by a score of 7 wins, one loss and 3 draws. 
     The Eagle claimed that but for an accident of birth which made him an Englishman, as a chess player he was thoroughly a representative of the United States. In 1905, Napier withdrew from the international tournament arena, became an American citizen in 1908 and began a career at an insurance company, becoming vice president of the Scranton Insurance Company. See Story of Scranton by Bill Steinke, page 67. 
     When the match began on April 21 there were six students from Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Princeton against six students from Oxford and Cambridge. The line up and results with the winners in bold. 

1. K.G. Falk (Columbia) vs. C.E.C. Tattersall (Cambridge) 
Ruy Lopez 
2. A.S. Meyer (Columbia) vs. A.H. W. George (Oxford) 
King’s Gambit 
3. C. Arensberg (Harvard) vs. L. McLean (Cambridge) 
Vienna Game 
4. L.A. Cook (Yale) vs. L. Hulbert (Oxford) 
Petroff 
5. W.W. Young (Princeton) vs. G.E.H. Ellis (Oxford) 
Anderssen's Opening 
6. W. Catchings (Harvard) vs. H.G. Softlaw (Cambridge) 
Four Knights Game 

    For the American team, Falk on first board drew snide comments from the Eagle. It was pointed out that Vienna had a world wide reputation as home to a school of young drawing masters and if New York harbored many more players like Falk, Vienna’s reputation would pass to New York. Falk, it was said, played only the Ruy Lopez and was always satisfied with a draw if he cannot get anything. The December 1899 issue of the Harvard Crimson was in agreement with the Eagle stating that "Falk is very conservative and seldom makes more than a draw against a good player." His opponent Tattersall on the other hand had a reputation among his fellow students as always being able to win; he tried his best this time, but couldn’t.
     Creasey Edward Cecil Tattersall (1877-1957) was a curator in the Department of Textiles for the Victoria and Albert Museum. He gave up chess to become an expert on Orential and British carpets.  For many years was an authority on endings and authored A Thousand Chess Endings.  It was said of him that if the time limit was a move a week he could probably win most tournaments.  Sounds like Falk-Tattersall was a good match up!
     On the 39th move Tattersall refused Falk’s draw offer and on his 49th move sacrificed a Bishop in order to Queen a Pawn. In the N vs. B ending that came about neither side could make progress and a draw was agreed to on move 58.
     Originally I had intended to attach the game between Meyer and George, but had a change of mind. Nothing much is known of those two players. George played in the Anglo-American university cable match in 1900 and defeated Louis Cook. After that...nothing. Louis Cook apparently ended up in Santa Barbara, California as there was a game he played in a team match that appeared in Herman Steiner's chess column in the October 9, 1938 edition of the Los Angeles Times.
Meyer in his college days
     Arthur S. Meyer is pretty much unknown except that he was an expert problem solver and the brother of Leonard B. Meyer (1881-1967) who in 1930 was president of the Manhattan Chess Club. Leonard himself was also an expert problem solver. The only other chess mention of Arthur seems to be in Chess Review in 1933 when he donated $5.00 to the US Chess Olympic Team. Both brothers were stalwarts at the Manhattan in their day. Outside of chess, Arthur served as Chairman of the New York State Mediation Board and he was frequently mentioned in New York papers of the day for mediating strikes. 
Meyer in 1937

     Instead we’ll take a look at the game played on board 5 between William W. Young and Gerald E. H. Ellis. 
     Young disappeared into oblivion at least as far as the chess world is concerned. A little more is known about Ellis and you can read about him on Chessgames.com HERE.
     Their game was described thus by the Eagle: After 7 moves the position looked somewhat like a QP opening except that both sides had full freedom for their Queen’s Bishops. 
     The verbal description of the action that appeared in the Eagle was, truth be told, quite wrong as the unknown columnist based his conclusion on the result, not on, as the Russians would come to say 50 years later, concrete analysis.
     Ellis first declared himself by castling Q-side where Young then directed his attack and by move 27 he had a promising position. But, a slip on move 28 allowed Ellis to plant a N on c3 which abruptly put an end to white’s attack and seized the initiative. Ellis hiccuped on move 29, but Young replied with an elementary blunder when he overlooked a N fork and allowed his opponent a snappy finish. 

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